Tale of the Three Morticians

By Sue Weber All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Thriller

Furiousity Killed the Skunk

“Are you sure you want to go into one of those buildings again, dear?” Mink asked, her fingers tight around Skunk’s arm. The two of them were in the topsyturvy parking lot of the Belleville hospital. Skunk stared at the white structure before him. He was standing in front of the emergency wing of the building. Without a word, Skunk advanced past the rows of ambulances and through the automated sliding doors. How long had it been since his parents rode in one of those boxlike vehicles? Skunk could remember the labyrinth of plastic tubes interlacing its interior. They snaked from gushy bags to bruised arms, delivering liquefied nutrients. Skunk hadn’t thought that anyone could be beautiful in a hospital gown. Even on the brink of death, his mother had looked flawless.

“Can I help you, sir?” A woman with sagging cheeks, crispy gray curls, and Dalmatian patterned scrubs lowered her glasses expectantly. “Sir?” She repeated. Skunk blinked. An audience of choking bag-eyed patients sat moaning behind him, awaiting their triage. Stretchers clicked by, sick children cried, voices babbled incoherent instructions over the speakers…

“This is my husband, Skunk Diggory,” Mink spoke. “Hospitals scramble his brains a little,” she added under her breath. She reached into Skunk’s pocket and pulled out the crinkled death certificate. “Do you know a Dr. Archie Boo Boo?” she asked. The gray-haired woman looked at Mink as though she was a patient of the psyche ward.

“Is this some sort of joke?”

“It most certainly is not!” Mink answered, smoothing out the paper. “My husband found this death certificate in the forest the other day. One of his guards told him he saw the vandal mooching around there. He thinks this certificate and the vandal might be connected somehow.” The secretary squinted at the document for a moment and then shook her head apologetically.

“This patient was in hospice care,” she explained. “I’ve never heard of any doctor by the name of Archie Boo Boo. The mortician might know something, though. He would need the medical to register the patient’s death. I recommend you contact a funeral home. The nearest one is in St. Louis du Ha! Ha!,” she suggested. Mink elbowed her gawking husband.

“Did you hear that, Honey?” she probed.

“Yes,” he sighed. “A mortician is the last person I want to speak to.” Skunk took his wife by the hand and riled her out the sliding doors.

“You can breathe now, dear,” Mink said. Skunk exhaled a stale puff of air. He immediately refilled his lungs with fresh new air. Hospital air was so rancid. The very thought of its subtle urine scent had Skunk wrinkling his nose in disgust.

“You look as though you’ve just been smacked in the face with a raw fish,” Mink stated, gathering her furs into the car. Skunk cringed. During his last stay at a hospital, he had made the mistake of ordering meatloaf from the cafeteria. As if the smell of his father’s death hadn’t been enough to turn his stomach!

Skunk drove in silent horror. He could feel his wife studying him from the passenger’s seat.

“You’re thinking about that meatloaf again, aren’t you?” she clucked.

“I swear it was―”

“Yes, I know, dear. You swear it was tinned dog food. I’ve nursed you back from this nightmare several times.” Skunk took his eyes off the road for a minute. He reached out and took his wife by the hand.

“We’re going to catch this vandal. Tonight,” he stated confidently. “I’ll let Officer Fanny Duster know of our stakeout plans so I can call him if we need to make an arrest.” Mink pressed her husband’s hand to the side of her cheek. It was soft.

“You know, Skunkie, dear,” she said, flashing him a smirk grin, “It’s not necessary for you to call that officer as I have plenty of handcuffs at home!” Skunk laughed until his gut ached.

Wheeling into his narrow countryside driveway, Skunk told his wife he would get some rest for the remainder of the afternoon and meet her in the town square for their stakeout at 8 pm. She agreed and waltzed off to her friend, Belinda’s place down the road for some tea.

Skunk closed the blinds to the large window adjacent to his bed, snuffing out any light that would prevent him from sleeping. He left the window open, as he found the cool autumn breeze relaxing. Wrapped in layers of cream-coloured blankets, Skunk closed his eyes and drifted off immediately. At first, the sleep seemed to swirl deep beneath his eyelids, but then the dull, sleepy buzz in the base of his skull turned into a malevolent voice.

“You’re a curse!” it spat. Skunk awoke. He was standing in the middle of a cemetery. It was cold. Fog snaked between his feet, looping its way around the multiple gray heads that protruded from the earth. A sour-faced man leaned against his own grave, sucking on a wooden pipe.

“A silly woman dies and you go gallivanting off with another. The disappointment never ends.” The man shook his head. The smoke swirling from his pipe integrated itself with the ever thickening fog. Although the cemetery was cold as death, Skunk could feel anger rising hot in his cheeks.

“You murdered that woman!” Skunk cried, his fists balled at his sides, “And then you brainwashed the entire town!” The man stepped from the shadows. His eyes were blue and cruel. They squinted at Skunk as though he was an insect meant to be squashed.

“She died peacefully,” he stated, as though what he’d done was noble. Skunk felt tears welling in the pits of his eyes. He choked back a sob.

“You plugged the exhaust pipe of her car. You poisoned her!” Skunk screamed.

The man calmly responded, “You have no proof of that.” Skunk took a seat on a gravestone. He uttered a shuddering breath. His chest was heavy with grief.

“It doesn’t matter,” he managed to say. “I got my revenge. You’re dead. Leave me alone!” Before Skunk could move to get away, the man’s arms encapsulated him. He smelt like dirt and smoke.

“You did what needed to be done,” he whispered in Skunk’s ear. “And for that, my son, I am proud of you.”

Skunk awoke. This time for real. He peered at the clock on his nightstand. 7:30 pm. Skunk swore to himself. He barely had time to get ready before meeting his wife. Though he knew he would be late, Skunk showered. He needed to wash away the sweat that clung to his forehead, along with the images from his dream. If he was going to catch the vandal, he would need to stay focused on his present. He couldn’t let the events of his past get in his way.

Before leaving, Skunk drank a vast quantity of coffee. The caffeine―combined with the energy he’d saved during his nap―gave him the spunk of a three year old. He parked his car in the parking lot of a hardware store and took off like the speed of light, straight for the town square. Skunk caught his breath and turned to look for Mink. As he scanned the area he realized that Mink was no where in sight. His eyes pulled tight, two lines of worry. Perhaps she had become impatient and had decided to go shopping for more mink furs. Figuring this must be the reason she was absent, he set off to begin his hunt for Mink, starting with her favorite store, Pretty Pelts Pizzaz. Surely he would bump into his wife there.

Bells chimed as Skunk entered the fur coat boutique. The place was a maze of fur coats so bundled together, you had to swim through them to get to the other end of the store. There were racks of fur coats as real as they were pricey lining one half of the shop, and racks of reasonably priced faux furs on the other half. There appeared to be a woman crouched in the corner of the expensive section. However, she couldn’t have been Mink for she was not stout enough.

“Good evening,” said the woman. Her voice was high-pitched and cheerful. Skunk fell speechless as he realized who the woman was.

“Mrs. Foppish?” Skunk asked. Officer Fanny Duster had almost arrested her at Spine Less’ shop for having a mustache. The thought of a woman with facial hair running a fashion boutique was a bit of a marvel to Skunk.

“Mr. Mayor?” she said in surprise. “What are you doing here? Is something the matter?” Skunk blinked. The woman’s mustache had disappeared.

“No, nothing wrong. I’m just looking for my wife.” Skunk paused awkwardly before adding, “Didn’t you used to have a―” he drew an imaginary circle around his own mustache.

“Didn’t I tell you?” Mrs. Foppish laughed, stroking her upper lip. “I had it done the other day.” Mrs. Foppish frowned. “ Speaking of Mink, last I saw you two were supping in that lavish Steakout Diner across the street a ways.”

“Steakout Diner?” Skunk looked at the woman in bewilderment. He placed a hand on her shoulder and said seriously, “Are you quite sure you saw us?” Mrs. Foppish had to be in her early seventies and wore glasses so thick her eyes resembled those of an owl.

“Yes, I’m certain,” she responded, taking Skunk’s hand in her own. “You greeted me on your way in. Don’t you remember?” Her already wide eyes grew wider with concern. Skunk could feel his own eyes widening. At which point, Mrs. Foppish playfully jabbed him in the sternum.

“Let me guess,” she giggled, “you can be in two places at once, is that it?!” Skunk swallowed hard and did his best to fake a smile before rushing out the door.

Somebody was impersonating him, and Skunk bet it had to be the vandal. Perhaps this vandal was more than just a vandal. After all, what would a mere delinquent want with a mayor’s wife?

“Oh, Mink,” Skunk sighed to himself, “when I said stakeout I did not mean gorging ourselves at an over-priced meat shack!”

It was evening and all the street lamps and signs were aglow. Thankfully, the Steakout Diner sign was illuminated in a most audacious shade of red. Skunk trotted down the sidewalk in its direction, increasing his speed with each step. The thought of his wife interacting with a potentially dangerous stranger made Skunk’s breathing ragged. He had already allowed one snarling man to take away everything that he once held dear. The lashings had been an emotional travesty― the sort Skunk would not stand to watch helpless on the sidelines again.

At the restaurant’s doors, Skunk’s throat was raw and his chest was heavy. Even so, adrenaline pumped through his veins as he stormed up the concrete steps of The Steakout Diner. A sort of animosity thrashed inside him, consuming his every move. He smashed through the doors with the intensity of an angry bull. The windows shattered on impact. His knuckles were slick with blood, but the intensity of Skunk’s anger numbed the pain.

“Where is my wife?!” he thundered.

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